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Protesters Dump Trash at Wheeler Hall Doorstep To Protest University Custodian Layoffs

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday November 25, 2009 - 09:04:00 AM

The UC strike reached its peak at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, when students and custodians dumped days-old trash from the different campus buildings outside California Hall, where UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau works, to protest recent custodian layoffs.  

Although California Hall was locked and looked deserted, a couple of people could be seen peaking out from behind the blinds.  

“Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!” shouted Kathryn Lybarger, an organizer for the workers union, as students threw used paper cups, apple cores and banana peels at the front door. “What does a regents’ meeting look like? This is what a regents’ meeting looks like!”  

“We will bring your job back,” Lybarger assured Houam Ounniyom, a laid-off custodian.  

UC Berkeley undergraduate Marika Goodrich said some buildings on campus had not had their trash picked up for a month because custodians had been laid off.  

“One custodian is being asked to clean an entire university building—garbage is piling up in the chemistry labs, in offices, everywhere,” she said. “Some people think it’s because the custodians are lazy, but it’s because they are being laid off.”  

UC Berkeley student Marika Ryer said that a shortage of maintenance workers was taking its toll on some classrooms.  

The pile of garbage was about 5 feet high by 4 p.m.  

“It smells like hell,” chanted the crowd. “It smells like the bathroom.”  

“It smells like leadership,” cried Lybarger, to applause from the audience.  

Senior Matt Marks said that the students had specifically chosen 3 p.m. to dump the trash outside California Hall because most custodians end their shift then.  

“So when they clean all this garbage up, they will get some overtime,” he said. “The union members were OK with us doing this.”  

Marks said that students wanted to have an after-party at the Bear’s Lair following Wednesday’s rally, but the student union administration had locked it down.  

“They kicked the students out and chained the doors,” he said. “The fire marshall came and told them to open the locks because it was a fire hazard.”  

Marks said that although the students had wanted to hold open lectures inside the food court Thursday, the student union officials told them that would require insurance.  

“I don’t think they want us to do anything there except eat food,” he said. “And apparently even then we have to be out.”